Thefts in West End triple in two years as retailer warn crime blighting district

Thefts in West End triple in two years as retailer warn crime blighting district

West End retailers have warned there was a “significant spike” in shoplifting and thefts across the famous shopping district last year.

Thefts in the West End have more than tripled in the past two years, with criminals frequently targetting wealthy foreign tourists.

New figures have revealed the number of thefts from a person rose to 2,806 in the central London area last year, compared to 796 in 2021, the Telegraph reports.

Figures put together by the Heart of London Business Alliance show thefts, including shoplifting and pick-pocketing, currently make up around 60 per cent of crime in the area.

The Heart of London Business Alliance represents 600 retailers, restaurants and property owners in central London.

Its chief executive Ros Morgan said: “Retail crime in the West End is not just a threat to businesses but to the entire community and luxury goods are no exception.

“There was a significant spike in shoplifting and a rising number of thefts across the West End in 2023.

“We have long called for a greater police presence to deter criminal activities and instill a sense of security.”

Bond Street stores were some of the most concerned about the rise in crime, according to one retail chief.

Nickie Aiken, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, has warned crime has got worse in the West End since the end of the pandemic and some criminals are using electric bikes to snatch items from people.

She has called for more police on the streets to help bring down the crime rates.

The figures come days after Indian businessmen were left so terrified of being targeted by Mayfair Rolex robbers that London’s crimewave dominated post-Brexit trade deal talks in New Delhi.

Labour foreign secretary David Lammy said during his short spell in India the issue had been raised several times.

“People are being mugged in the heart of London - in Mayfair,” said Mr Narang, an executive committee member of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

“All CEOs in India have had an experience of physical mugging and the police not responding.”

The spate of luxury watch and mobile phone snatches are being carried out by thieves on mopeds and e-bikes.

Latest Metropolitan Police figures show there were 31,000 robberies across London in the 12 months to December 2023, an 18.9 per cent rise on 2022.

Westminster, where Mayfair is located, is a particular hotspot where muggings are up 26 per cent with 4,441 in the past year.

Last month, the Met revealed it had used undercover officers posing as victims to catch robbers attempting to steal Rolex and Patek Philippe watches in central London.

Two operations carried out in late 2022 and 2023 across South Kensington, Chelsea, Soho and Mayfair saw some deployed as potential targets wearing expensive brands.

Dramatic video showed opportunistic criminals who then tried to mug them being apprehended by other covert officers nearby. Both operations led to more than 20 convictions so far.

New data found 29,000 watches had been reported stolen to the Met in the last five years, with one in five of those thefts involving violence.

Between April and September 2022, around 300 luxury watch robberies were reported stolen across Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham with a total value of roughly £4 million.

The Mayor of London’s office said: “The Met have stepped up their response to robberies – which are rising nationally – and have specialist teams out proactively targeting the most prolific offenders and robbery hotspots.”